UF softball No. 5 in preseason poll

University of Florida's head softball coach Tim Walton will have 11 returning letterwinners. (AP photo)

Published: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 12:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 25, 2011 at 12:55 p.m.

For the third-consecutive season, the Florida softball team will kick off its campaign with a top-five preseason ranking, as the Gators are ranked No. 5 in the Preseason USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) Division I Top 25 Poll, announced Tuesday.

UF has been ranked or receiving votes in every USA Today/NFCA poll since the 2005 season, hitting No. 1 a total of 13 times, including 11 of 16 polls during the 2009 season.

The Gators, who finished last season at No. 6 in the USA Today/NFCA Top 25 with a 49-10 record (20-4 SEC), are coming off their third-consecutive WCWS appearance in 2010 after also garnering a top-five seed in the NCAA Tournament for the third-straight year.

Florida returns 11 letterwinners, led by senior All-American pitcher Stephanie Brombacher, and welcomes a class of six newcomers, including Gatorade National Player of the Year Kasey Fagan.

Defending national champion UCLA claimed the top preseason spot with 27 of the 30 first-place votes. The Gators will collide with seven opponents that appear in the preseason top 25 poll, including tilts with the top-ranked Bruins (2/25), No. 3 Georgia (3/25-27), No. 4 Tennessee (5/6-8), No. 6 Alabama (4/22-24), No. 15 Texas (2/24), No. 19 LSU (3/9) and No. 25 North Carolina (2/19).

The Pac-10 paced the preseason poll with seven member institutions in the top 25, followed by the SEC and Big 12 with five each. The Big 10 had three top-25 selections, while the ACC tallied two. The WAC, Sun Belt and Mountain West conferences each had one representative.

Florida kicks off the 2011 campaign on the road with the USF Wilson DeMarini Tournament in Tampa, Fla., a five-game stint from Feb. 11-13, and will face Florida Gulf Coast (2/11), Marshall (2/11), N.C. State (2/12), Long Island (2/12) and USF (2/13) during the three-day span.

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